With Android L and iOS 8, is Ubuntu Phone OS Too Late to the Party?

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The party has begun. Everyone has arrived. The good ones, the bad ones, the pretty ones and the not-so-pretty ones are already here. Except for one. Yes, and it is the most promising one too. Android and iOS both have reached a level of maturity that has given them a huge stronghold over the mobile OS market space. Both of them have been for years, have millions of apps, and have a formidable presence that has managed to ward of competition even from big companies like Microsoft.

This battlefield for mobile operating systems is so heated up that even Samsung, who is one of the biggest mobile device makers in the world is having a hard time catching up with the latest trends. From flat design trend to perks for low-spec devices, both iOS and Android have conquered some of the major challenges that come in the way of making a great mobile operating system.

Ubuntu Phone OS, which has been in the factory for quite a while -- perhaps much longer than expected -- has thrown itself against what is perhaps one of the biggest challenges Canonical has ever faced: Battling Android and iOS. For a mobile OS that is just starting out, it is like a small fish jumping into an ocean full of sharks. The biggest question both Canonical and its fans are facing is that: Is Ubuntu Phone OS too late for the party? We've got some catching up to do.

Microsoft's attempts with the Windows Phone OS have not been as successful as they wanted to. Despite offering more than 240,000 in the Windows Phone store, they have run against a brick wall: The number is not enough. According to the site Appbrain, the Google Play store has as many as 1,313,357 apps. Those numbers for a phone operating system that is still in development definitely seem daunting.

Convergence May Be a Way Out

Microsoft knows about this dearth of apps. They are offering incentives to developers, running all sorts of campaigns, and trying pretty much they can to help developers switch over to the dark side. But one of Microsoft's future products that could potentially fix this problem forever is Windows 9. According to Satya Nadella, the CEO of Microsoft, the next version of Windows will run the same apps across mobile, desktops, and tablets. This strategy also provides a glimmer of hope for Canonical as they are basically aiming for the same thing: convergence. With the desktop, mobile, tablets, and TVs running the same app, Ubuntu could attract a lot of developers. Developers who don't have a lot of time on their hands will find it easier to just make one app that runs across all devices. Also, according to Canonical's website they are working at making Facebook, Twitter, Dropbox, Evernote and Amazon available at launch right away. If everything works as expected, Ubuntu might just get the traction it needs to creating a great app ecosystem.

The Networking Game

Ubuntu's Carrier Advisory Group (CAG)  boasts of some really big names from the mobile network industry. There's Verizon, T-Mobile, and Vodafone who seem enthusiastic about Canonical's endeavors. The question remains whether this will ever return any productive results remains to be seen. But the CAG itself is another indication that all's not lost. Ubuntu seems to be offering perks to CAG members that Android or iOS don't. One of such perks is the ability to launch Ubuntu devices before non-members in local markets. All we can say is that the interest in Ubuntu OS seems substantial.

Making a Difference

Android and iOS are polished operating systems. Ubuntu phones must offer more and be a better alternative. They have to be low-priced, high on features, and should appeal to a wide audience. Maybe a multi-device package like a tablet + phone combo might lure new customers into the Ubuntu ecosystem. The best way for Ubuntu to showcase convergence is to offer discounted deals on purchase of multiple devices at ridiculously low prices. Also, in developing markets, Ubuntu can make a huge difference by offering package combos like a laptop and a tablet or a laptop and a phone, both at low prices. With Android and iOS at their zenith, convergence might be the only thing that will bring a well-deserved victory to Canonical.


Though Ubuntu's fight seems like a David vs. Goliath one, there is a big hope for Canonical if they get the convergence part handled before biggies like Apple and Android do. Also, the excitement among Ubuntu's longtime fans might just open up some room for another open-source operating system. If you are an Ubuntu user, just keep your fingers crossed. Exciting times are ahead.

Written by: Abhishek, a regular TechSource contributor and a long-time FOSS advocate.